Tuesday, July 3, 2018


Culinary and cultural center of the special kind

May contain traces of advertisement.*

You have to know, that this house in Grundarstígur 10 in the herat of Reykjavík hosts a restaurant. Otherwise you would probably pass by without noticing it. Only an inconspicuous signboard indicates, that there is a café. But I did know about Hannesarholt, when I came by there for the first time in spring 2017. I had seen so many tempting food photos on Instagram and also photos of different cultural events.

"Matur, menning, fundir og ráðstefnur í sögufrægu húsi", in English "food, culture, meetings and conferences in a historical building", that's the focus of "Hannesarholt". So let's start with food!

We had been invited on Saturday evening. The welcome was warm, we were escorted to our table and gota welcoming glass of sparkling wine.

As appetizer we selected "Rauðrófuskífur með valhnetum, piparrótakremi, balsamíc edíki og geitaosti", i.e. beetroot carpaccio with dill, walnuts, horseradish cream, balsamic vinegar and goat cheese. In all seriousness - the taste was simply brilliant and I've never eaten beetroot of such delicious kind!

As main course I chose "Pönnusteiktur silungur með pikkluðum eplum og lauk, tómatconfit, brokkálsmælki, sætum kartöflum og spínatfroðu". That's pan fried trout with pickled apples and onion, confit tomatoes, broccolini, sweet potatoes and spinach foam. Very tasty. Looking at intense green color of the spinach foam alone made me get happy!

My husband ordered tofu. This is something what can't excite him. In general, he is not interested in vegan food at all. But he wanted to give it a try. And it was a success.

The meal was named "Vegan marinerað tof með blaðsalati, strengjabaunum, blómskáli, brókkálssmælki, sætum kartöflum og pistasíuhnetum" - marinated tofu with Romaine salad, string beans, broccolini, sweet potatoes and pistasios. Delicious, intense in color and taste - a feal delight! I was very impressed by the sweet potato - in one piece, fairly large, outside and inside as soft as butter, cooked to perfection. That's the way I really love sweet potatoes!

After a shared starter and a main course for each we felt full. However, we wanted to give the desserts a try. Hence we got "heimagerður banana- og berjaís", home made banana and berry ice cream 

and a bit of "bökuð ostakaka með hindberjaþaki", baked cheesecake with raspberry coating. The cheescake was still warm, crisp on the outside, soft on the inside. The coating consisted of dried pieces of raspberries and cold berry sauce. This was my personal highlight of the evening. I love this cake.

Our dinner was accompanied by piano music. In the adjacent room an elderly gentlement played the piano. I don't understand much of music. I recognized "Que sera, sera" and some other pieces of music. I guess I've never dined in such a classy ambiance.

From our table we had a good view into the kitchen, where a little girl, maybe the cook's daughter, was eagerly trying to help. When the kitchen door was close, we could admire the classic door glasses. Beautiful!

In general, the restaurant was lovely decorated in classic design. I felt really comfortable.

After our meal the owner Ragnheiður Jónsdóttir guided us through her house. Everything is placed under the motto: "A place to remember our roots."

Actually the house is a historical location:

"Hannesarholt" was built in 1915 for Hannes Hafstein (1861 - 1922) and his family. Hannes Hafstein was the first prime minister of Iceland (1904 - 1909, 1912 - 1914). He stood up for the self-administration of Iceland, and he also did much for women's rights in Iceland. Furthermore he was a writer and lyricist popular in Iceland.

After a devasting fire in Reykjavík, Hannes Hafstein advocated a ban of the construnction of new wooden houses within the city. "Hannesarholt" itself became one of the first houses in Reykjavík build of concrete. Here he lived since the early death of his wife Ragnheiður (1871 - 1913) together with his 7 children, his mother and his mother-in-law.

Bust of Regnheiður Hafstein

Even today the house offers space for children to play in the attic. 

The present owner Ragnheiður bought the house to preserve this part of Icelandic history and to remind Icelanders of their roots. When Hannes Hafstein was born, most people in Iceland still lived in traditional turf houses. Reykjavík was a village with less than 7.000 inhabitants (today about 200.000).

Hannesarholt is a non-profit organization and a meeting place for many different people. Artists of various styles exhibit their works changing regularly. Musicians perform here, discussions are organized and so on.

What looks like an inconspicuous green hill next to the house, is in fact a concert and event hall. One week before our visit, Svavar Knútur appeared here, hier aufgetreten, the Icelandic troubadour we could see and here last autumn in Dresden. Quite a pity that we missed him here! 


The dinner menu is short, but fine. When we were there, it provided three appertizers (smoked trout, beetroot carpaccio and vegan hummus). As main course we could select between cod, trout tofu and lamb. For dessert they offer cheesecake and home made ice cream. 

The appertizers cost in average about 1800 ISK (14.50 €, 17 $). Main courses are about 3.850 ISK (31 €, 36 $) and dessert about 1.640 ISK (13 €, 15 $). As we noticed, all the other guests around us ordered appetizer, main course an dessert. For such a full dinner you have to pay nearly 60 € resp. 70 $ - plus drinks. But you get really good and delicious food in a very special atmosphere at a historical location.

* Legal note: 

Formally this article can be graded as advertisement, since we had been invited for the meal. Anyhow, we have chosen only restaurants, which we had heard good things about and which we estimated as interesting. Accordingly we're really delighted, and if we fall into words of praise, these are meant honestly.

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